SOCHI, Russia — The figure skating judge fixing "scandal" of the 2014 Winter Olympics may in fact be an elaborate hoax used as a tactic by Russian coaches, according to a source within the Canadian camp.
On Saturday, the French newspaper L'Equipe reported that an arrangement had been reached between Russia and the United States in which judges would conspire to hand Russia gold in the team competition and guarantee victory for America's Charlie White and Meryl Davis in the ice dance event.
The primary victim on each occasion would likely be Canada, which sits in second place behind the Russians with one night of team action remaining and whose ice dance pair of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir is the main competition for White and Davis.
Despite the report and the inevitable ensuing controversy, a Canadian team source insisted the "fix" was not real but was merely an attempted distraction concocted by Russian coaches.
"I don't believe it," the source said. "I don’t think that is a problem. I think that the judging is fair. Maybe this is done [by Russia] to distract us and try to make [Canada] lose concentration."
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko angrily refuted suggestions of any wrongdoing.
"There is no point even commenting on such nonsense," Mutko said.
The Russian Figure Skating Federation did not respond to requests for comment about the L'Equipe report.
If the whole saga is indeed a sneaky Russian ploy, it would be a somewhat cruel one, as Canada was the nation that suffered from a figure skating judging scandal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Back then, Canadian duo Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were initially awarded a silver medal but were later upgraded to gold after a French judge allegedly insisted she had been pressured to mark up a Russian pair to a higher score. The controversy resulted in both Canada and Russia being handed gold medals.
[Photos: Team ice dancing competition — Day two]
The incident led to a complete revamp of the sport's scoring system, ditching the old 6.0 method with today's more complex formula, which breaks down each move on the ice.
In Sochi, the team competition continues Sunday night. Russia has opened up a six-point lead over Canada, seven over third-place U.S.
Davis and White placed higher than Moir and Virtue, their friends and training partners, in Saturday's short program, but Moir insisted his apparent disappointment was due to their performance rather than dissatisfaction with the scores.
In Vancouver four years ago, Virtue and Moir claimed gold in the ice dance, but White and Davis have since emerged as legitimate Olympic gold contenders and have dominated the discipline for the past two seasons.
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